Alabama people

Last updated
Alabama-Coushatta Rez.jpg
Alabama-Coushatta Reservation, Texas
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Flag of the United States.svg  United States (Oklahoma)
380 enrolled members, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town [1]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States (Texas) 1,137 enrolled members, Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas [2]
Protestantism, traditional beliefs
Related ethnic groups
Coushatta, Hitchiti, Chickasaw, Choctaw, other Muscogee Creek people

The Alabama or Alibamu (Alabama : Albaamaha) are a Southeastern culture people of Native Americans, originally from Alabama. They were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy, a loose trade and military organization of autonomous towns; their home lands were on the upper Alabama River.

Alabama is a Native American language, spoken by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas. It was once spoken by the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town of Oklahoma, but there are no more Alabama speakers in Oklahoma. It is a Muskogean language, and is believed to have been related to the Muklasa and Tuskegee languages, which are no longer extant. Alabama is closely related to Koasati and Apalachee, and more distantly to other Muskogean languages like Hitchiti, Chickasaw and Choctaw.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Alabama River river in the United States of America

The Alabama River, in the U.S. state of Alabama, is formed by the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers, which unite about 6 miles (10 km) north of Montgomery, near the suburb of Wetumpka.


The Alabama and closely allied Coushatta people migrated from Alabama and Mississippi to the area of Texas in the late 18th century and early 19th century, under pressure from European-American settlers to the east. They essentially merged and shared reservation land. Although the tribe was terminated in the 1950s, it achieved federal recognition in 1987 as the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas . Its 1,137 members [2] have about 4,500 acres (18 km2) of reservation.

Mississippi State of the United States of America

Mississippi is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and 34th most populous of the 50 United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana to the south, and Arkansas and Louisiana to the west. The state's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Jackson, with a population of approximately 167,000 people, is both the state's capital and largest city.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

The Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town is a federally recognized tribe, headquartered in Wetumka, Oklahoma. [3]

Wetumka, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Wetumka is a city in northern Hughes County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 1,282 at the 2010 census, a decline of 11.7 percent from 1,451 at the 2000 census. The town was named for a Creek town of Wetumpka in Alabama, which the Creeks were forced to leave during the Indian Removal. Wetumka is a Muscogee Creek word meaning "tumbling water." It is the headquarters for two federally recognized tribes, the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town and the Kialegee Tribal Town. It is the home of the Sucker Day, held every year on the last Saturday in September.


The Alabama language is part of the Muskogean language family. Alabama is closely related to Koasati and distantly to Hitchiti, Chickasaw and Choctaw. Also known as Alibamu, an estimated 100 speakers, primarily from Texas, still speak the language. [4]

Muskogean languages language family

Muskogean is language family spoken in different areas of the Southeastern United States. Though there is an ongoing debate concerning their interrelationships, the Muskogean languages are generally divided into two branches, Eastern Muskogean and Western Muskogean. Typologically, Muskogean languages are agglutinative. One language, Apalachee, is extinct and the remaining languages are critically endangered.

Koasati language Native American language spoken in Louisiana

Koasati is a Native American language of Muskogean origin. The language is spoken by the Coushatta people, most of whom live in Allen Parish north of the town of Elton, Louisiana, though a smaller number share a reservation near Livingston, Texas, with the Alabama people. In 1991, linguist Geoffrey Kimball estimated the number of speakers of the language at around 400 people, of whom approximately 350 live in Louisiana. The exact number of current speakers is unclear, but Coushatta Tribe officials claim that most tribe members over 20 speak Koasati. In 2007, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, in collaboration with McNeese State University and the College of William and Mary, began the Koasati (Coushatta) Language Project as a part of broader language revitalization efforts with National Science Foundation grant money under the Documenting Endangered Languages program.

Chickasaw language Native American language of the Muskogean family

The Chickasaw language is a Native American language of the Muskogean family. It is agglutinative and follows the word order pattern of subject–object–verb (SOV). The language is closely related to, though perhaps not entirely mutually intelligible with, Choctaw. It is spoken by the Chickasaw tribe, now residing in Southeast Oklahoma, centered on Ada.


A boy from the Alabama-Coushatta reservation planting Christmas trees. Alabama-Coushatta.jpg
A boy from the Alabama-Coushatta reservation planting Christmas trees.

The Alabama first encountered Europeans when Hernando de Soto arrived in 1540. (See here for other de Soto contactees) In the 18th century, the French arrived on the Gulf Coast and built a fort at what became Mobile, Alabama.

Hernando de Soto Spanish explorer and conquistador

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Pizarro's conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States. He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River.

Gulf Coast of the United States Coastline in the United States

The Gulf Coast of the United States is the coastline along the Southern United States where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and these are known as the Gulf States.

Mobile, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Mobile is the county seat of Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 as of the 2010 United States Census, making it the third most populous city in Alabama, the most populous in Mobile County, and the largest municipality on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Alibamu and Koasati tribes were part of the Creek Confederacy. They had less contact with British settlers than other Creek tribes did. They were the first to leave when British settlers swarmed into the area by the middle of the 18th century, after the land was ceded by the French following the British victory in the Seven Years' War (known in the colonies as the French and Indian War). Under pressure as well by Native American enemies, the Alabama and Coushatta tribes wanted to avoid the powerful Choctaw in present-day Mississippi. They moved into territories of future states, first into Louisiana and then into Texas.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Seven Years War Global conflict between 1756 and 1763

The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain on one side and the Kingdom of France, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Swedish Empire on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as "World War Zero", similar in scale to other world wars.

French and Indian War North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years War

The French and Indian War (1754–1763) pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, each side supported by military units from the parent country and by American Indian allies. At the start of the war, the French colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 settlers, compared with 2 million in the British colonies. The outnumbered French particularly depended on the Indians.

Alabama and Coushatta towns were divided into "red" and "white" towns. The "white" towns were responsible for keeping the peace and for providing refuge, while the "red" towns were responsible for conducting military campaigns. Though they had "red" and "white" towns, the Alabama-Coushattas thought of themselves as a peace-loving people. [5]

In 1795, the Coushatta arrived in the Big Thicket area of East Texas. In 1805, nearly 1,000 Alabama came to Tyler County's Peach Tree Village in East Texas. The two tribes developed a strong friendship as they roamed and hunted their new land together. In the early 19th century, the Texas Congress granted each tribe two strips of land along the Trinity River. Their land was soon taken over by European-American settlers, leaving them homeless. Sam Houston, the governor of Texas, recommended that the state purchase 1,280 acres (5.2 km2) for the Alabamas; although money was appropriated to buy 640 acres (2.6 km2) for the Coushattas, the land was never bought. Either through marriage or special permission, many Coushatta went to live on the land given to the Alabama. Other Coushatta had stayed in an area in southern Louisiana near the Red River. Many of their descendants are enrolled members of the federally recognized Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.

By 1820, there were three main Alabama towns and three large Coushatta towns in east Texas, in the region known as the Big Thicket. In 1854, the Alabama were given 1,280 acres (5 km2) in Polk County. The following year, 640 acres (2.6 km2), also in Polk County, were given to the Coushattas. The Coushatta claim was disputed by white settlers in 1859. When the Coushatta lost the land claim, the Alabama invited them to live on their land claim.

The federal government approved a large grant in 1928 to purchase additional land near the reservation; it was granted to the "Alabama and Coushatta tribes." Since that time, the reservation has officially been known as "Alabama-Coushatta".

Origin myths focus on the interconnectedness of the tribes. One myth states that the two tribes sprouted from either side of a cypress tree. Another legend was recorded in 1857 from Se-ko-pe-chi, one of the oldest Creeks in Indian Territory. He said that the tribes "sprang out of the ground between the Cohawba and Alabama Rivers." The symbol of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe comes from pre-contact Mississippian culture: two intertwined woodpeckers, now symbolic of the connection between the two tribes.

Cultural practices


The obtusifolium subspecies of the plant Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium is used in a compound decoction for nervousness and sleepiness, [6] and in a decoction as a face wash for nerves and insomnia. [7]

Contemporary tribes


The Alabama who relocated to Texas supported Texas independence. In gratitude, Governor Sam Houston recommended that Texas purchase land for the tribe when their existing land was overtaken by settlers.

The two tribes share many cultural characteristics. In a hearing before the Indian Claims Commission in 1974, Dr. Daniel Jacobson suggested that the Alabama and Coushatta tribes were culturally related because of intermarriage. The Handbook of Texas reports that the languages come from the same stock, even though there could be some word variance.

They merged with the Coushatta to become the present-day Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. Although long under state trusteeship because the state controlled public lands, the tribe achieved Federal recognition in 1987 by an act of Congress, rather than by administrative process of the Department of Interior. The law that restored the tribe's federal relationship prohibited such gaming as was then prohibited under state laws.

The current tribal lands are in eastern Polk County, Texas. The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, Texas' oldest reservation, located at 30°42′50″N94°40′26″W / 30.714°N 94.674°W / 30.714; -94.674 , has 18.484 km2 (7.137 sq mi) of land. The land purchased by the state and assigned to the Alabama in 1854 was expanded by another purchase, under a federal grant in 1928. The 2000 census reported a resident population of 480 persons within the reservation. As of 2010, there are some 1000 members of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe. [8]


In Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town was established and federally recognized in 1936. The descendants of the Alabama who live there are also affiliated with the federally recognized Muscogee Creek Nation.

Tribal economy and gaming

In the tribe's earlier years in Texas, gathering, hunting, agriculture, fishing, and trading were its main economic pursuits. In more recent years, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has relied on the service and entertainment industry to generate revenue and jobs on the reservation. In 2002, the Tribe opened a convenience store, gas station and tobacco store on U.S. Highway 190, which can sell products tax free because of the tribe's sovereign status. This business complex is slowly becoming profitable. The station generates a small profit margin and a limited number of jobs. [9]

The Tribe opened an entertainment center for tourists. The center offered casino gambling. The tribe believed it satisfied requirements of the 1992 Texas Lottery Law that permitted the state lottery, horse racing, and dog racing. [9] The Alabama-Coushatta, a Christian community, allows no alcohol in the casino.

The Tribe was successful in generating revenue and jobs. The center offered jobs to 87 Tribal members, greatly reducing unemployment from 46 percent to 14 percent. [9] Revenues from the entertainment center provided the Tribe with funding for health services, the elderly, educational opportunities for youth, social services, and housing. Such jobs had a multiplier effect within the regional economy, with businesses' reporting an increase in sales and tax revenues. The entertainment center benefited not only the Tribe, but also the surrounding regions by creating more than 495 jobs and paying $4.3 million USD in wages and nearly $400,000USD in federal taxes. [10]

After the center had operated for nine months, the state brought suit against it in 1999. A Federal court ruled that the Alabama-Coushatta had to close their entertainment center. The federal courts made this determination based on the conditions of federal recognition in 1987, which banned tribes from gaming prohibited under state laws.

In July 2006 the Alabama-Coushatta sued lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates for attempts to defraud the tribe in seeking to defeat state legislation in 2001 that would have given them authority to run the casino. The tribe claimed the lobbyists had hidden their motives in representing the competing Coushatta of Louisiana, which ran their own casino, and mobilized Christian groups in an underhanded way. A Senate investigation in 2006 revealed that several tribes were defrauded of tens of millions of dollars by Abramoff and associates on issues associated with Indian gaming.

The four tribes that Abramoff persuaded to hire him were all newly wealthy Indian gaming tribes. They included: Michigan's Saginaw Chippewa, California's Agua Caliente, the Mississippi Choctaw, and the Louisiana Coushatta. The Abramoff scandal received widespread public attention and he was prosecuted.

On March 29, 2008, Jack Abramoff was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison for pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Abramoff made a deal to cooperate with investigators to provide information about his relationships with several members of Congress. Federal sentencing guidelines indicated a minimum sentence of 108 months in prison. Because of Abramoff's cooperation with the government, his sentence was greatly reduced. He was released from prison on June 8, 2010 and completed the remaining six months of his sentence in a halfway house in Baltimore. [11]

Without the casino, the tribe has no funding for economic programs. More than 300 jobs have been lost in Polk County. [12] [13] The Alabama-Coushatta tribe has been trying to gain state and Federal support to re-open the entertainment center, for the economy of both the Tribe and the surrounding regions. Over the years, the Tribe has struggled to rebuild its economy in a depressed Polk County.

We should be candid about the interests surrounding Indian gaming. The issue has never really been one of crime control, morality, or economic fairness...At issue is economics...Ironically, the strongest opponents of tribal authority over gaming on Indian lands are from States whose liberal gaming policies would allow them to compete on an equal basis with the tribes...We must not impose greater moral restraints on Indians than we do on the rest of our citizenry. - Daniel Inouye, Senior United States Senator from Hawaii. [14]

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), passed by Congress in 1988 (after the act that restored federal recognition to the Alabama-Coushatta), established the framework that governs Indian gaming. The IGRA allows tribes to develop casino-style operations that could improve governmental services and economic conditions in Indian country. According to the IGRA, tribes have the "exclusive right" to regulate gaming in Indian Territory "except when gambling is contrary to federal law or when a state completely prohibits a form of gaming." [15] [ page needed ] The IGRA recognizes three different classes of gaming:

Class I gaming is controlled completely by the tribes. Class II gaming is regulated by the tribes with oversight by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Class III gaming may be allowed in a state that allows large-scale gambling operations, even if it allows only low-level operations. Also, Class III gaming is subject to agreed regulatory procedures in Tribal-State compacts, which states are required to negotiate in "good faith". Without a tribal-state compact, no tribal casino can be permitted.

Tribes find fault with the provision about Tribal-State compacts, because under the Eleventh Amendment, which provides for state sovereign immunity, tribes are not able to sue any state to enforce the requirement to enter into such compacts. Thus, while the IGRA gives tribes the right to have casinos, the Eleventh Amendment gives the states the right to refuse to negotiate tribal-state compacts. [15] [ page needed ]

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that gaming revenues be used only for governmental or charitable purposes. [16] The tribal governments determine how gaming revenues are spent. They are typically used to invest in infrastructure for tribal members, such as housing, schools, and roads; to fund health care and education; and to develop a strong economy.

Indian gaming is considered the most powerful economic development tool available on most Indian reservations. The National Gaming Impact Study Commission has stated that "no...economic development other than gaming has been found." [16] Tribal governments also use gaming revenues to develop other economic enterprises, such as museums, malls, and cultural centers that attract tourists and other visitors. Indian gaming can provide substantial economic benefits in states where a tribe and state work together.


  1. "Pocket Pictorial." Archived 2010-04-06 at the Wayback Machine.Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2010: 9. (retrieved 4 May 2011)
  2. 1 2 "Welcome." The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. (retrieved 4 May 2011)
  3. Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2008 Pocket Pictorial Archived 2010-04-06 at the Wayback Machine .. 2008: 3
  4. "Alabama." Ethnologue. (retrieved 4 May 2011)
  5. Hook, Jonathan. The Alabama-Coushatta Indians. Texas A&M University Press, 1997.
  6. Swanton, John R. 1928, Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #42:473-672 (p. 663,664)
  7. Taylor, Linda Averill. (1940) Plants Used As Curatives by Certain Southeastern Tribes. Cambridge, MA. Botanical Museum of Harvard University (p. 61)
  8. "History", Alabama-Coushatta Website, Retrieved on 2008-10-01.
  9. 1 2 3 "Economic Opportunities". Official Site of The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.
  10. "Economic Development". Archived from the original on 2008-05-23. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  11. "Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Working In Baltimore Pizza Shop". Huffington Post. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  12. "Plaintiff Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas's Original Complaint" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  13. Suzanne Gamboa, "Texas Tribe Names Abramoff, Reed in Suit", The Washington Post, 12 Jul 2006, accessed 14 Oct 2008.
  14. Wilkinson, Charles (2006). Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 331.
  15. 1 2 Wilkinson (2006), Blood Struggle
  16. 1 2 Darian-Smith, Eve. New Capitalists: Law, Politics, and Identity Surrounding Casino Gaming on Native American Land. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Blood quantum laws

Blood quantum laws or Indian blood laws are those enacted in the United States and the former Thirteen colonies to define qualification by ancestry as Native American, sometimes in relation to tribal membership. These laws were developed by European Americans and thus did not necessarily reflect how Native Americans had traditionally identified themselves or members of their in-group, and thus ignored the Native American practices of absorbing other peoples by adoption, beginning with other Native Americans, and extending to children and young adults of European and African ancestry. Blood quantum laws also ignored tribal cultural continuity after tribes had absorbed such adoptees and multiracial children. Tribal enrollments were often incomplete or inaccurate for multiple reasons; individuals didn't trust the government and so they refused to enroll, families relocated before censuses were taken, or individuals were incorrectly identified by white men, whom were the census takers.

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Coushatta ethnic group

The Coushatta are a Muskogean-speaking Native American people now living primarily in the U.S. states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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Muscogee (Creek) Nation

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Tribal-State Compacts are declared necessary for any Class III gaming on reservations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA). They were designed to allow tribal and state governments to come to a "business" agreement. A compact can be thought of as "negotiated agreement between two political entities that resolves questions of overlapping jurisdictional responsibilities Compacts affect the delicate power balance between states, federal, and tribal governments. It is these forms that have been a major source of controversy surrounding Indian gaming. Thus, it is understandable that the IGRA provides very detailed instructions for how states and tribes can make compacts cooperatively and also details the instructions for how the federal government can regulate such agreements.

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The Alabama–Coushatta Tribe of Texas is a Federally recognized tribe of Alabama and Koasati in Polk County, Texas. The tribe hosts an annual powwow in early June. These peoples are descended from members of the historic Muscogee or Creek Confederacy of numerous tribes in the southeast United States, particularly Georgia and Alabama.

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